Monte Frank and Elizabeth Charash Compact on guns can work
Following the shooting in Sandy Hook, where we live, Connecticut passed a comprehensive set of laws designed to reduce gun violence, including background checks on all firearm sales. Those 2013 gun reforms and New York’s Safe Act were challenged and upheld as constitutional.
Many other states followed suit, and those laws were similarly found to comply with the 2nd Amendment. These significant reforms have reduced gun violence without violating the rights of hunters, sportsmen or responsible firearm owners. Despite these reductions, gun violence remains a public health crisis in Connecticut, as crime guns flow in from states where firearms can be easily purchased and transported across state lines to be sold on our street corners.
The crisis screams out for Congress to act, as it has done when other national public health issues have presented. Yet, Congress is mired in political gridlock, a victim of the two-party system where tribal politics dominate and the will of the people is subverted. Against this abdication of responsibility, states need to assume leadership. States need to form a comprehensive compact to fill the void left by Congressional paralysis. A gun violence prevention compact (“GVP Compact”) will bring states together to form an alliance centered around basic principles and reforms to reduce gun violence in all communities.
Compacts are not new — dating back to the country’s founding — and are quite effective at addressing the areas that Congress has ignored. The most notable of these compacts address environmental protection. The Clean Power Plan is one such compact to develop multi-state compliance strategies. In an article published by the Harvard Environmental Policy Initiative, it was found that “a regional compliance approach to the EPA’s proposed rules would save approximately $3 billion annually, compared to sub-regional compliance paths.” This helps all of the states involved do what is best for their constituents.
Compacts have also been used when the federal government has proven insufficient to address needs in times of natural and man-made disaster. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact coordinates efforts among states to provide state-to-state assistance to help fellow states recover, most recently in Hawaii, California, and Kansas.
Recently, some states entered an alliance around research on gun violence because Congress inhibits research by refusing to fund it. New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York have banded together to say, “Not One More,” seeking to “identify new approaches to prevent gun-related crimes.” This compact, however, is limited and not enough states are members. The effort needs to be broadened.
Many of the approximately 30,000 people killed by firearms each year could be here today if not for the federal government’s inaction on gun violence. Connecticut’s comprehensive and common-sense gun laws work together with other measures, but those provisions stop at the border, and crime guns flow in from other states with lax laws. The compact model has been successfully used to fight climate change and protect people from the harms of natural disasters. It can now be used in the fight to address gun violence.
Now is the critical point to discuss this issue in a comprehensive and informed manner. Now is the time for a new GVP Compact to develop a common set of principles and laws to provide a baseline for all members. For example, a state joining the Compact would be required to adopt background checks on all firearm sales, impose strict penalties for illegally transporting firearms across state lines, and enact extreme risk protective orders, measures that should find support among gun owners.
In order to be successful, our governor would have to work to convince other states to join. A true independent governor would have the best chance to get broad support for the GVP Compact. Otherwise, the “ask” would be viewed through the lens of party politics. An independent governor on the other hand could start to build out the GVP Compact and thereby provide a larger buffer for Connecticut residents and create an opportunity to close the iron pipeline that brings crime guns to our state.
Let’s take action together as a state joining with the other states to form the GVP Compact, a union based on common goals to reduce gun violence, in the face of Congress’ inability to act.
Monte Frank, of Newtown, is a candidate for lieutenant governor. Elizabeth Charash, of Newtown, is a recent graduate of the University of Connecticut where she was the chair of the UConn Students Against Gun Violence.